Paris terror touches home

Darden prof June West with sons Benjamin, left, and Nathan at Benjamin's wedding in Paris in August. Submitted photo Darden prof June West with sons Benjamin, left, and Nathan at Benjamin’s wedding in Paris in August. Submitted photo

UVA Darden professor June West was in Washington, D.C., last Friday evening, and saw a news crawl on CNN about attacks in Paris.

“I said, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I immediately texted my son.”

Her son, Benjamin West, has lived in Paris for 14 years.

“They were at a party,” she says. “They couldn’t get home because the Metro was locked down.”

She’s talked to Benjamin every day since the attacks. “They are in shock,” she says. “The way Parisians handle these events is they march in solidarity.” In this case, President François Hollande did not want people on the streets.

“I think the magnitude of this particular attack is sinking in for him and his friends,” says West. “As much as they want things to get back to normal, that wasn’t possible this weekend.” Most shops were closed and there were very few people on the street, she says.

Nor was starting the work week normal. “Ben’s building had metal detectors, which is new,” says West.

“The City of Lights is in a sad state,” writes Benjamin in an e-mail. “Since Saturday, Paris has seen an influx of armed military to ensure our safety and that of the city’s monuments. In addition, the government announced that citizens should avoid public areas, but the French refuse to give up their liberty. The terraces of Parisian cafés are full of those who will not give in to fear, with the belief that we show our solidarity and honor the victims by continuing to live our lives as before.”

“I keep thinking about that young woman from California, realizing her dream of studying design and going to Paris, sitting at a cafe,” says June West. “That’s what you do in Paris.

“Whenever I’m there, it’s laughing and talking. To have it become a killing field is beyond words. It could be any of us.”

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